Question #1: When did you get started on Merch By Amazon?
I got started with Merch by Amazon about a month or so after it came out. It was late 2015, and I doing a little bit of FBA along with lots of affiliate work. FBA soon became a nightmare as I was getting my product stuck in customs, it was a cash intensive business, and I had to stay up all hours of the night to actually have phone calls with my suppliers in China.
So my business partner at the time in an affiliate venture sent me a techcrunch article talking about this new program for app developers where you can upload artwork and get paid a royalty every time someone purchased it.
I noticed that these products were going to be up on Amazon.com and you didn’t have to pay anything up front (like you do FBA to get product). That sounded like a pretty sweet deal, so even though I was not an app developer, I jumped on board.
Question #2: When did you realize you should start taking Merch Serious?
I already knew that selling on Amazon was lucrative, but all I had known up to that point was mostly affiliate marketing and driving people over to Amazon to make purchases. I knew generally how well these converted, and how easy it was.
I am certainly not an artist, but I understand business so I thought I would create my first few designs. I opened up Photoshop, dragged a few images in, typed a funny saying or two, and put up my first shirts.
I saw sales within the first week (and these were really REALLY poor designs). I knew if I was going to take merch serious and move forward I was going to have to hire a team since designing even poor designs was taking me much too long.
Hired my first couple of designers and scaled as quickly as possible from there.
Question #3: What made you Create Merch Informer?
When it comes to affiliate marketing, it is incredibly important that you pick the right product for your audience. If you recommend a product that your audience is not interested in, that traffic will be wasted and you will never make money on it.
Knowing this, I would spend hours and hours on Amazon.com searching out random niches. Anything you can think of I probably searched for it. The goal was to identify exactly WHERE customers were spending their money. If I knew the market was hot, and there were customers there, I knew I could give them a good market fit with a great design.
When you run multiple businesses, it is hard to designate certain time for one over the other. I was slacking on the affiliate side because I was spending up to 8 hours a day just typing in random stuff into the Amazon search bar. I knew that there had to be a way to speed this up.
I hit up my business partner from the affiliate venture and it went from there. Months later, we released the beta version of Merch Informer.
You can pretty much tell just by using the software that we are not just some random entity, but actual merch sellers as well. Each module or feature came about because either WE needed it for our business, or a large chunk of the community wanted it.
Question #4: What is your pricing strategy?
I went to school for economics for most of college, so I price to the market. The market is going to set the prices every time, and this is never going to change.
If I am competing against 5 other people, I might come in near the bottom or the middle. The market for a small niche like that MIGHT be $19.99 average. This all changes as competition increases though.
For competitive niches, I will start designs around $14.99-$16.99. This allows me to sell volume, which is incredibly important for the review structure on Amazon.
Sure I might not make as much money up front, but I can almost guarantee that head to head, i'll make more in the long run. Outlast your competitors and you will end up winning. Funny enough, this is EXACTLY how Amazon has gotten as big as it has. They offered a great product at a competitive price. That price came about because of the market and data.
Question #5: Do Reviews Really Matter?
Reviews are at the core of my sales. Guess how many people leave reviews on Amazon products though? Maybe 1-2 percent for shirts, MAYBE!
When you price like I do, and end up doing more volume, the likelihood of getting those reviews increases. This is just simple math, that everyone loves to ignore.
What I see a lot of the time though, is that you have a great seller and it sells for a few months, and then it dies off. We have all been there, not sure what is going on. What I quickly noticed though was that as soon as I got a SINGLE 5 star review, that would no longer happen. That shirt would turn into a consistent seller, and they are still selling today. Over and over again.
Reviews also let you increase the price of your shirts to make more money. Remember, buyers purchase with their eyes first, and their wallet second. If they like the design, AND have social proof, they will be more likely to purchase.
Question #6: What is one of the biggest issues you see in the Merch Community?
Complaining about EVERYTHING.
We are selling on someone else’s platform. Not only that, but they are doing 99.99% of all the work, while kicking us back a royalty for each sale.
There are some things you can’t control, and when it comes to Merch by Amazon, those some things are…well, most of them.
Instead of wasting your time and effort complaining about things you have no control over, I wish the merch community would just put their head and focus on what they CAN control.
You can control your research, keywords, and designs. Learn how to increase the quality of all 3 of those things and you should be sitting pretty. If you would rather not, that’s fine. Just do not waste your time complaining. Move on to something else you are passionate about.
Question #7: What product would you like to see added next to Merch By Amazon?
Canvas art would pretty cool. That being said, it probably will not happen anytime soon!
Instead of focusing on what we want (which for me is probably tank tops), spend time with what you do have (t-shirts). T-shirts is where all the money is for the most part!
Any last Statements or Comments?
If I could get the merch community to do two things, they would be to TEST everything imaginable and use data in every decision you make in your business.
Just because I am sitting here telling you that my prices start at market value and go up doesn’t mean you should just take everything I say at face value. TEST IT! I think you will probably come to the same conclusion I did, but that came from trying things.
Test everything. Test traffic sources, test promotion techniques, test design quality, test different designers, test design technique. All of this testing might cost a bit of money, and you might not make any sales doing it, but what you are going to do is learn a lot, and collect data that can be used to make decisions.
That is probably what I will end this interview on. Use data to make your decisions and you will have a lot less uncertainty when doing Merch by Amazon. Data tells you everything you need to know. It tells you what people want, how much they are willing to spend, and how much you can make.
Learn to do those 2 things, and you will be successful with Merch.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day Neil and answering some questions for us. One place we both see people struggling is the “testing” area. Anyone can give you their exact process, but that doesn’t mean their process will work for you. Everything should be tweaked to work for you, and your business. At end of the day, Amazon doesn’t give us much data about our sales, where traffic came from or even what keyword did they search to find your shirt. But there are a lot of things we can control in our business. Uploading great designs, doing proper research and simply putting in the time to build for the future. If you are in Merch to get rich quick, you are in it for the wrong reason. Merch By Amazon is a long game, and the more you learn and read now, the better off you will be down the road.
Merch Informer is the most advanced software in the industry, bringing you the information you need with just a few clicks. Neil has added numerous features over the past year and continues to go above and beyond for the Merch By Amazon community
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